Specialist Provision for Students with Vision Impairments
Impaired vision does not have to be a barrier to successful learning. Every student deserves the opportunity to fulfil their academic potential, and it is as important to have high expectations of students with VI as it is with any student. The Specialist Provision for the Vision Impaired (VI) provides a range of support measures to assist students with VI to achieve the best possible outcomes as well as to enjoy full participation in the daily life of the school.
The Specialist Provision for the Vision Impaired (VI) was set up over 25 years ago. It aims to enable the inclusion of students with vision impairments (who have Education Health and Care Plans- EHCPs) in lessons and school life while supporting them to achieve their academic and personal potential on a par with their sighted peers. We provide a safe nurturing learning environment for our students where they feel valued, supported and stimulated to develop confidence in their abilities and skills as fully as possible in preparation for adulthood and independent living.
We achieve the above through:
- Providing all students with VI with a balanced curriculum at Key Stages 3, 4 and 5. We have in place a structured learning programme based around functional life/living/independence skills for less able students with VI (at Key Stage 4), tailored to specific individual needs and in accordance with their EHCPs.
- Providing 1:1 support from specialist VI staff in the majority of their lessons. The VI staff consist of a Teacher in Charge (0.8) of the VI Unit (who holds the MQ for QTVI) and a team of experienced VI-trained Learning Support Assistants (all of whom have qualifications in braille).
- Providing a safe and accessible school environment for students with VI. Step edges are marked in yellow, staircases have rails to assist people with VI. New interactive boards are glare-free with excellent contrast which enables students with residual vision to see the work on the board.
- Producing, modifying and adapting teaching and learning materials in an appropriate medium (e.g. tactile materials, braille, enlarged and modified text, simplified texts and diagrams) to make them accessible to students with VI. Our students are provided with individual copies of all handouts/PowerPoint presentations in lessons to enable them to access the work on the IWB. In general, teaching staff email handouts/PPPs to the relevant VI staff prior to lessons to enable them to modify the work for students in advance. Specialist equipment is used to facilitate VI students’ access to the curriculum in PE. A VI LSA makes sure this is used appropriately with the VI students.
- In Science and Food Technology lessons equipment used includes: talking scales, timers, thermometers, liquid level indicators, scientific calculators and colour indicators, German film, etc., all designed to facilitate VI students’ access to the curriculum. A VI LSA always accompanies VI students in practical work/experiments (e.g. in Science, Design and Technology) to ensure their safety but also to facilitate their access to the work as independently as possible.
- Delivering the ‘additional curriculum’, mainly in withdrawal lessons in the VI Resource. Depending on students’ specific individual needs, they attend braille, touch typing, literacy, numeracy, Entry Level Functional English and Maths, life skills ASDAN lessons (including home management – planning, shopping for ingredients and cooking a meal - and mobility and independence training) and social skills sessions delivered by the VI team. There are also lessons delivered in conjunction with the habilitation officer from Kent Association for the Blind (KAB), who provides mobility/independent travel training. Training on the use of Low Vision Aids and specialist technology has been provided to staff and students by the Sensory Service at Medway Council, the Kent Association for the Blind and Humanware. Kent Association for the Blind also liaise with the families of VI students regarding mobility training in their local area.
- Providing Assistive Technology: we encourage consistent use by students of appropriate specialist VI equipment in lessons (brailler, touch-screen laptops, large iPads, tablets with specialist software, etc.) and employ effective approaches, e.g. visual, oral/aural, tactile and kinaesthetic, to enhance communication and learning and to optimise curriculum access and promote independence.
- Liaising closely with the school’s SEND department, the Sensory Service at Medway Council and the Kent Association for the Blind to provide specialist advice for teachers and parents of students with Vision Impairments at the school who do not have EHCPs, as well as those with EHCPs.
- Providing CPD for teaching staff on a termly basis on ‘Meeting the needs of students with VI in the school environment’. Each student with VI has a Communication Passport/Pupil Profile (with information on the student’s vision and learning needs) which is distributed to all teaching staff at the beginning of the school year. The same applies to the other students with SEND at the school. This information is also available on SIMs for all school staff to access whenever needed.
- Transport to and from school and extra-curricular activities: most VI students (with EHCPs) travel to and from school by a mini-bus provided by the Local Authority for which their parents apply on an annual basis. Some are transported by their parents. VI students are offered the opportunity to attend an after-school club Monday to Thursday in the VI unit. Members of the VI team oversee the VI homework club and assist the students in making the most of the extra time.
- VI students are included in educational and residential trips at the school. They are also offered the opportunity to pay visits to theatrical performances in London organised by Mousetrap Theatre Projects especially for young people with vision impairments. On these occasions parents collect them on their return.